Dáil debates

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Project Ireland 2040: Motion [Private Members]


4:40 pm

Matt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)

I also thank the Rural Independent Group for bringing this motion before the Dáil. It is opportune that it was tabled for this week because we are talking about the NDP in the context of the motion and in recent days the Government launched yet another report, namely, Our Rural Future. What we had once again this week was another big launch but little vision. The Government's plan contains no new spending, targets or ideas. The lack of detail is astounding and there is virtually nothing new for rural communities in the plan. The strategy is primarily a repackaging of existing Government policy, much of which consists of other promises that have been oft repeated but rarely delivered upon.

The Government's big idea seems to be that people who are working in urban areas will be able to do so in rural areas. That is fine and welcome and it is something that probably should have happened a long time ago. However, it does not represent the type of big ambition and vision that are required for our rural communities. Those who live in such communities deserve to have job creation in their counties, not just crumbs from the table of Dublin. Rural communities need investment in infrastructure. They do not need rehashed investment promises but new money and funding.

The level of delay and procrastination that come with the most simple projects, such as road development, the lack of vision in rail development and the plans being discussed for broadband facilities have been repeated here on a number of occasions. We are dealing with businesses on a county-by-county basis that cannot expand because the resources are not available. That is something we do not see in cities such as Dublin. Rural communities also need to see strengthened local Government and empowerment. There are too many decisions made and too much control in places such as the Customs House and in bodies that are based in Dublin, where announcements such as the one made this week are made in Dublin by civil servants who have little appreciation for the realities of rural living.

Rural communities need to see a Government that will support family farmers, as has been said, in the face of the challenges ahead, as opposed to the continuation of the existing policies outlined in this document and in the strategy we saw this week, which should be a source of embarrassment to rural representatives from the Government. We have seen missed opportunities by Government parties on too many occasions, simply because they do not have the vision and ambition that our rural communities need and deserve. We need to tackle that to ensure that we have strengthened local decision-making and that we have investment in job creation to ensure that those people who live in and come from rural communities can have every expectation that they will be able to build, live, rear families and work in those same communities.

We need to move beyond the partitionist mindset that is crystallised in the so called national development plan and in the document that was launched this week. We cannot look at the redevelopment of counties such as Monaghan, Cavan, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal without recognising that they do not end at places such as Newry, Aughnacloy or Strabane. These communities require and we all require a national approach to dealing with the issues of regional imbalance.


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